- "What She Wants: Homosocial Triangulation in Rider Haggard's She and Leonard Cohen's Beautiful Losers." Canadian Lesbian and Gay Studies Association Conference, May 2002, Toronto[abstract]
- Guest Lecture on Judith Butler and Queer Theory. McMaster University. 27 March 2002.[abstract]
- "A Homosexual Good Will Hunting . . . and Other Hollywood Myths." Public Lecture, Université de Montréal, 12 November 1998.[abstract]
- "The Diseased Homo: Queer Theory and the Reinscription of Homophobia." "Sex on the Edge" Conference, Concordia University, 9 October 1998.[abstract]
- "Fear of a Queer Glassco: Performing Straight in Memoirs of Montparnasse." "Queer Nation?" Conference, York University, 16 March 1997.[abstract]
- "'A Little Satan Philosophizing on Calvary'? On the Homosocial Reading of Willa Cather's 'Paul's Case.'" LEXIS exchange (York University), 24 November 1995.[abstract]
Ang Lee's film Brokeback Mountain and Annie Proulx's short story of the same name rather unironically and uncritically depict masculinity. The depictions of repression in the film are not, I argue, a reflection of a misunderstanding society—though it may be that—but, rather, they occur under the almost invisible veneration of a stoic, almost sublime, masculinity. Jack and, particularly, Ennis cannot find a way out of their oppression and self-repression because they are unable to move beyond or even understand how the masculine culture in which they unquestionably participate functions.
Pedro Almodóvar uses instances of comedy in order to avoid problematic ethical judgments concerning both the constitution of "authentic" woman and the nature of agency and rape. The director's concerns with an "open-ended elaboration" that downplays irony run the risk of conservative recuperation; that is, his unwillingness to provide, at times, interpretive direction leaves his new melodramas open to accusations of misogyny and (repressive forms of) essentialism.
The fashion make-over television show, “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” is an urban symptom of capitalist-inspired fragmentation masquerading as Fun. I argue that media representations of homosexuals—in print, television, or film—do little to explore the complex subjectivities of gay men, and even less so of lesbians, and instead rely on using them as queer accessories to heteronormative structures of capitalist reproduction found ideally in the family unit. I will conclude that a sharp attention to history and its attendant identity formations are an essential aspect of recovering from the social wreck wrought both by queered identity and its academic counterpart, queer theory.
Todd Haynes' re-imagining or re-styling, as his Far From Heaven (2002) might also be duly termed, of Sirk's classic might be said to offer a "corrective" or a correct historically located reading of Sirk. Haynes' rearrangement resurrects the melodramatic mise-en-scène of All that Heaven Allows in order to reshuffle, if not disorder, four decades of critical inquiry into Sirk. Concomitantly, Haynes liberates some of the Sirk's (barely visible) sub-social commentary (primarily sexuality) in order to give voice to what effusive colour could only hint at. He calls attention to the congruent plights of all those oppressed in his imagined social world, and as a result, his ending is rightly sad; unlike Sirk's rhetorically false happy ending, Haynes' is simply unhappy. At the film's end, the visual flair and any attendant narrative camp has been subsumed by what Haynes imagines Sirk intended: subversive socio-cultural commentary through style.
Recent criticism of Selvadurai's novel has focused largely on the protagonist's "coming of age" and maturation, especially concerning his sexual orientation. However, a reading of the novel would be incomplete without added attention to the machinations of gender and its interrelation to matters of colonialism, race and class. Though Arje must work through his status with a minority group in Sri Lanka and come to terms with his sexual orientation, his privilege, I argue, arises from both his (relative) wealth and status as someone who "passes" for a heterosexual man.
At the recent "Whodunit? OCAD Mystery Art Sale," people interested in visual arts were encouraged to purchase "Mystery Art," that is, art prepared specifically for a fund-raiser. The hype for the sale depended on not knowing the artist's name, as there were some well-known artists who had contributed (Raymond Moriyama, Margaret Atwood). All pieces were sold for $75 each. The notion of artist as willing capitalist is not new, but OCAD's sale takes this one step further by enjoining a willed ignorance, one which fomented hype not unlike that of a lottery. The donors' altruism was trumped by the College's appeal to greed and consumerism. Ironically, the artists were not selling their names, the emblem written on everyone's body, but their corporatized selves. Those who later found out that they had indeed purchased a more valuable Charles Pachter or Atwood were, like any capitalist-inspired venture, in the (self)-esteemed minority; the others were left with a philanthropic gesture; and the students, now named but inconsequential, ended up merely as the plane upon which the show was drafted and sold. Given recent incursion of corporations into aspects of art (e.g. Recording artist Moby's selling of his songs; the attempt of Nike to use the Beatles' Revolution to sell shoes), the process of public acceptance of art as merely a capital venture has usurped the notion of education as enrichment.
Leonard Cohen's Beautiful Losers in part deals with a Canada whose history is, generally speaking, both colonial and post-colonial; the anthropologist narrator and his study of the history of the A---- tribe (which includes both Catherine and Edith), in part, signal this concern with (colonial) history. However postmodern the novel may be, though, in its refusal to settle on any one meaning, Beautiful Losers can still be understood as using the (colonial) narrative of "male adventure"; the homosocial bonding of F. and the narrator is nothing more than a libidinal update of the Holly and Leo relationship depicted in Haggard's She.
Although there is no identifiable homosexual in Good Will Hunting, the social bonding between men, especially as such bonding uses women as "mediators," masks a deeper affiliation between the men, an association which may include homosexuality. I explore the tension in the film, between the themes of friendship and the gay director's (Gus van Sant) attempts to colour these friendships with homoeroticism. In particular, I draw attention to the correlation of a male "feminine intellect" with homosexuality (as embodied by Professor Lambeau); the use of the 19th century homosexual artist, Homer Winslow; and the conflicted Oedipal relation between Sean and Will. The film, I concludes, operates on an allegorical level, at which it can be said to be all about homosexual male bonding.
Much recent queer theory, in its non-admitted drive for an ideal and deconstructed subject-outside-all-subjects, effectively lops off its diseased progenitor, the socially identified homosexual, a subject seen as incapable of transforming its binarised essentialism. Queer deconstructive rhetoric, especially as it permeates the political body, will invariably give way to the self-destruction groups such as Queer Nation faced because such theory has a direct investment in getting rid of material evidence: the homosexual. Queer Nation's miming of civil rights sit-ins, for example, failed to reclaim public space precisely because queer visibility, in its use of homosexual transgression, failed to keep up a day-to-day reinforcement of its project; they were defeated by their own provisionality. Similarly, queer theory presupposes a similar provisionality, that the ongoing stimuli and the perpetual self-critique demanded can somehow be maintained over time. But despite its foundation in social constructionism (and attendant anti-identity formulations) and (homo)sexual transgression, queer theory must still rely on the identification of "the homosexual" and keep this category in (visible) circulation and, somehow, relevant. But if it does not resolve the impasse created by its suspension or deferment of homosexual subjectivity and political strategies, it will only continue undermine its homosexual base by, as Savoy alleges, smuggling homophobia "in through the back door," thereby reinscribing a view of homosexuality as "highly dispensable" (134).
Work Cited: Savoy, Eric. "You Can't Go Homo Again: Queer Theory and the Foreclosure of Gay Studies." English Studies in Canada 20:2 (June 1994): 129-52.
John Glassco's hugely entertaining Memoirs of Montparnasse is a performance piece by which Glassco hoped to achieve the trappings of fame, if not fortune. Full of misleading rhetoric, if not outright lies, the memoir takes special liberty with homosexual goings-on so that the author may distance himself from a lifestyle still suffering public disapprobation as late as the memoir's 1970 publication date.
What traverses the space between what is and is not named in "Paul's Case" is a dialectic heavily influenced-in the fin de siècle anxiety about the emerging discourses on sexuality and sexual pathology-by capitalism including, by natural extension, the institutions of the church and family. The ideologies reinforcing production and consumption both identify and seek to disperse anything which does not maintain the economic, moral (read: sexual), class and social status quo. The thing not named-that ineffable "something" that haunts Paul throughout the story-is not necessarily homosexuality, though such a subtext is possible. "Paul's Case" is, to a greater degree, not only a commentary on insincere aesthetics (which may encompass Cather's ambivalence about sexual "otherness" and its inadmissible pathology) but, moreover, an observation of power structures (industry, church, family) and their natural interests and consequences, however obliquely understood by Cather.
Graphic novels, or sequential art narratives, have been with us for about 30 years, yet until recently they have never been considered "serious"-or at least, serious enough to be considered novels that might be on university syllabi. However, with Chester Brown's recent interpretation of the Louis Riel story (in the biography of the same name) garnering considerable attention, the graphic novel is (yet again) being hailed at the "next big thing." But is it literature? Does the study of the genre belong in an English class? Does Brown's work, for example, contribute to the ever-growing body of "Riel Lit," and so, should it be studied alongside Rudy Weibe's The Scorched Wood People or poetry by EJ Pratt, Dorothy Livesay, Lorna Crozier, and George Bowering? Are illustrated novels, such as those by Barbara Hodgson, really about the pictures and not the narrative? Papers which examine and interpret the graphic novel, as a novel or in its role as a pedagogical tool, are welcome. Essays on graphic novels by Canadian writers/artists-David Boswell, Chester Brown, David Collier, Julie Doucet, Seth (aka Gregory Gallant), Dave Sim, Michel Rabagliati-are particularly encouraged.
Munn, Bryan. "The Border-less Frontier: Louis Riel, Palmer Cox and Nineteenth Century Cartoon Narratives in Context"
Yang, Andrew. "Paradise Lost and Season of Mists: Postmodern Sequential Art in Discourse with the Literary Canon"
Grace, Dominick. "Aardvarkian Intertexts and True Stories"
How do desires of any kind (in)form the material of the textual worlds we encounter, especially those Canadian literary and textual worlds? Which texts propose resistance to "discourses of the normalized"? Which propose integration? What are the disciplinary and cultural presuppositions behind desire in the literature currently found in university syllabi? How is desire often the unnamable, the unacceptable, the unspoken? What are the languages of desire? What are the boundaries between the "normal" and the "abnormal"? How are desires used to control, and how do they underscore the structures of available discourses in literary texts? How have fields of specialization, such as feminism or queer theory, contributed to an expanding discussion of these texts? To what end has desire been problematic? Is desire a body style or is it something more cerebral? Is the idea of always being just "out of reach"-of striving, rather than attaining-the true definition of desire? Possible topics/areas include desire as submission, desire to submit; legal limits of desire; geographical isolation/location or "situated" desires; pedagogical desires; history of desire in literatures; media desire: medium of desire(s) is the message; ecological/biological desires: natural and naturalized desires; for the "other"; desire for difference / to be different; desire for the forbidden;"separation anxiety," the desire to separate, the desire to assimilate; desire for stabilization, to destabilize binaries, to maintain opposites, to oppose; subversive or destabilizing desires; desire to "pass" as straight, as gay, as neither, as both; style desire: camp aesthetics and desire for the feminine, the eternal feminine, the masculine underneath the feminine; commodified desires, a desire for commodities, the body as commodity, the body as ad.
Goldman, Marlene. "Sleeping with Ghosts: Lesbian Desire in Gail Anderson-Dargatz's The Cure for Death by Lightning"
McGill, Robert. "By Grand Central Station Who Sat Down and Wept? Elizabeth Smart and Autobiographical Desire"
Woodland, Malcolm. "Refraining from Desire: Unsettling Returns in Trish Salah's 'Ghazals in Fugue'"
Dennis Lee writes, "To speak unreflectingly in a colony . . . is to use words that speak only alien space." Literary representations of Indigeneity in Canada (and elsewhere) have, even when an attempt is made to accurately portray subjected peoples, often reinscribed "inauthenticity" at the heart of understanding the other; the result is a geography of "alien space." If Canada is understood, in part, as a nation of immigrant colonizers, how have the earlier newcomers, such as the prototypical Susanna Moodie, constructed images of First Nations peoples, and how have indigenous peoplessuch as Lee Maracle or Sky Lee"written back"? Moreover, how have recent writersespecially new immigrants from other colonized countries, such as Dionne Brand with Land to Light Onadded nuance to the debate about authentic voices and their relation to the land(scape), and the constitution of Canadian Indigeneity and identities? How has the construction of English- or French-Canadian nationalism depended on the exclusion or suppression of certain aspects of gender and sexuality seen as inimical to the continued broadcasting of a masculinist, virile, heterosexual nationality? Has the land itselfin novels such as Badlandsoften been discussed in this manner? How do literary representations of foreign landsin, say, A Fine Balance, or Funny Boyreconfigure Canadian identities? Especially welcome are papers which explore such topics with attention to the relation between the discourses of postcolonialism, gender and sexuality. Please send queries and/or 300-500 word abstracts by 15 November 2001.
Alien Geographies (1):
Fox, Chris. "Female Homosociality, Indigeneity, and Nation-building in Wacousta."
Lowry, Glen. "Ana Vancouver: Whiteness and the Space of Daphne Marlatt's 'Lesbian-Feminist' Subject."
Nadler, Janna. "'Arjie Plays Dress-Up': The Child Cross-Dresser as Minor Performer in Shyam Selvadurai's Funny Boy."
Alien Geographies (2):
Dean, Misao. "'a genuine Canadian experience': Susan Frances Harrison's 'Idyl of the Island.'"
Goldman, Marlene. "Mapping the Door of No Return: Deterritorialization and the Work of Dionne Brand"
Milne, Heather. "Place, Exile and Naming in Catherine Parr Traill's The Backwoods of Canada and Dionne Brand's In Another Place, Not Here."
Wells, Martha. "Setting the Record 'Straight'? Authenticity and History in The Beothuk Saga and River Thieves."
Nativism, Authenticity and the Colonized Land:
Chakraborty, Mridula Nath. "'Where Do You Come From?' M.G. Vassanji's The Gunny Sack."
McConney, Denise S. "Returning Expressive and Interpretative Space: Post-Colonialism and First Nations' Writing About Writing."
Stolar, Batia Boe. "Between Two Landscapes: Nativism and Othering in Jane Urqhuart's Away."
The tradition of maintaining distinct national literatures has come under pressure with the advance of late 20th century global capitalization. Yet the resistance to dominant forms of national representations-literature, film, performance, music-still assert themselves as alternatives to the mainstream, be that political, sexual, or cultural. Is the notion of transgressive literatures, in particular, especially those that are concerned with asymmetries of gender and sexuality, concomitant with other writings whose subjects do not adhere to purported "national standards"? What of authors, such as Steven Weiner, an American writing as a Canadian, whose characters deny or defy the existence of borders, both sexual and and national? Does Canada's reputation as a "postmodern" or "queer" country reflected in its literatures? Does America's political conservatism and melting-pot culturalism deny literary plurality? Or are all these simply cliches How do Canadian and American literatures "play out" in the other's country? Can authors, such as Margaret Atwood (in The Handmaid's Tale) or Annie Proulx (in The Shipping News) accurately represent a locality not strictly their own? How does each nation "patrol" their literatures (eg: in university syllabi), and might such gatekeeping (if any) be translated as censorship (eg: Canada Customs' prosecution of Little Sisters)? Is Carol Shields, for example, the winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and the Governor General's Award, a Canadian or American author?
Donna Pennee (Guelph), "Not Crossing the Nation's Borders but Nevertheless Bordering on Transgression"
Shelley Boyd (McGill), "Place-Conscious Writers: Constructing the Canadian Nation in the Works of Mary diMichele and Lola Lemire Tostevin"
Erin Vollick (McGill), "Where Is Here? Citizenship and Difference Through (Canadian) First Nations' Literature"
Shannon Meek (Victoria), "Am I OK if I'm a Lumberjack?: Reading Class, Gender, and Homophobia in Woodsmen of the West"
Scott Rayter (Toronto), "'He Who Laughs Last': The Comic Response to AIDS in the Work of Peter McGehee"